Feel good but not soppy

Title: Alternatives to Sex

Title: Alternatives to Sex

Author: Stephen McCauley

Publisher: Granta

Reviewer: Namhla Tshisela

Boy meets girl. Boy and girl fall in love. Boy and girl face obstacles. Boy, also the Prince Charming incarnate, must save girl, the ubiquitous damsel in distress, before they can live happily ever after.

Stephen McCauley uses this favourite formula, but with a scintillating twist.

As graphic as the title may sound, there is very little sex. So you can read the book in long queues and on long trips. In fact, it's encouraged because then you can delight in letting self-righteous people think you are reading smut.

The novel is set around estate agent William Collins, who, short of a mid-life crisis, decides to bring to an end his sexcapades with virtual strangers he meets online. He finds little solace in his obsession with cleaning and ironing, and is constantly disappointed by a relationship that never takes off with Belgian man of mystery, Didier.

He is drawn to the lives of his clients and discovers a few skeletons in their extravagant and designer closets.

Kind and something of a pushover, Collins endures a strained yet rollicking relationship with his fake New-Age tenant, Kumiko, who never pays the rent and whom Collins ends up ironing for and partnering to yoga classes.

Another interesting character is militant and self-styled "life coach" Marty who is an influence on Collins' old and effeminate flight attendant friend, Edward.

Take a cue from Marty's "don't-take-shit" doctrine and be a happier person by indulging in a good, but not overly sentimental love story and have your funny bone tickled.